For aches and pains
Do you suffer from niggling knees, lower back pain, indigestion, toothache or headaches? Waiheke Island medical herbalist and naturopath HELEN ELSCOT gives tips to help overcome the aches and pains which can stop you from your daily work out.
Pain is something most of us will face at some point in our lives and although pain relief medications are widespread and a cheap, effec tive antidote, they can have their own set of side-effects.
Herbal medicine is ex-periencing a revival at general and scientific level. This rediscovery of practical knowledge and wisdom lends itself to a more ecologically stable and “natural” way of life and can help keep you on the path to good health.
INFLAMMATION AND FEVER
The white willow tree has been used to combat pain and fever for thousands of years. The bark of the tree contains salicin, which the body converts to salicylic acid. The active compound in aspirin, acetylsalicylic acid, is derived from salicylic acid.
Herbalists use white willow in much the same way as aspirin, to reduce pain and inflammation in conditions such as arthritis, period pain and fever. White willow works a little slower than aspirin in relieving pain, but lasts longer and is gentler on the stomach.
Nearly one in three New Zealanders suf fer from chronic pain caused by conditions such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.
Specialists who treat this type of pain are beginning to note significant results when using the mineral magnesium.
Magnesium is required in the body for the production of muscle tissue and an increased level of muscle tissue breakdown is believed to be one of the main reasons for the aching, pain and fatigue.
For chronic pain relief, it is best to use a high potency powdered form of magnesium, which targets muscle tissue breakdown effectively.
MIGRAINES AND HEADACHES
The most common way Kiwis are struck down by pain is through headaches and migraines. Whether brought on by stress, dehydration, hormones or muscle tension, they are debilitating and can strike just when you’re trying to exercise.
Of course, the best way to treat headaches can be found on a pharmacist’s shelf – alternatively you can relax, re-hydrate or try a soothing cup of lemon balm or chamomile herbal tea. They both have a sedative effect, which helps the nervous system cope with the stress, which leads to headaches.
For the 30 per cent of sufferers who do not respond positively to pharmaceutical medication and those who deal with the knock-down pain of a migraine, the leaves of the Feverfew plant can be a saving grace.
Feverfew is a member of the sunflower family and bears a striking resemblance to chamomile. It contains an active compound that helps relieve smooth muscle spasms and, in particular, helps prevent the constriction of blood vessels in the brain, which is one of the leading causes of migraine headaches. Controlled trials have shown that just two or three fresh Feverfew leaves chewed daily can reduce the incidence of attacks in people who experience long-term migraine headaches.
Building strong bones and healthy cartilage is a lifelong event. While you’re young, fit and healthy you may not think much about your bones or joints, but you can’t make a move without them and you’ll count on them, as you get older.
Your bones and cartilage gives your body a framework, maintaining its shape and helping protect vital organs – taking good care of your inner scaffolding will help prevent you suffering from back and neck pain in the short-term and can help prevent chronic diseases such as osteoarthritis.
To soothe the aches and pains, the herb aptly named devil’s claw (or known by its Latin name Harpagophytum procumbens), is a plant native to southern Africa and its name is derived from its small hooks and how tricky it can be to get out of, once caught.
Traditionally used as a bitter tea to improve digestion, it is now often used for conditions that cause inflammation and pain such as back and neck pain, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome.
There is nothing worse than the constant nag of an aching tooth. Your best friend to help soothe the pain, before you get to your dentist, is kawakawa.
You need only to veer slightly off a road, motorway, lane or track to find kawakawa. Its heart-shaped leaves are usually found tucked away under the canopy of other trees where it prefers a shady position.
Kawakawa’s aromatic leaves, also known as Maoria bush basil, were traditionally chewed to relieve toothache and digestive disturbances.
Looper moth caterpillars often perforate the leaves, but this damage actually increases the concentration of active medicinal ingredients and makes these leaves the best to chew for pain relief
Kawakawa can also be taken as an infusion by treating a leaf like a tea bag and steeping it for a few minutes in boiling water. The resulting liquid is analgesic, with a slightly tingling taste sensation.
The burning, gnawing pain that come with acid reflux means that eating can turn from a pleasure to a pain.
The word “reflux” comes from the Latin word refluere, meaning to flow back or recede. This means acids from the stomach flows back into the esophagus, the tube that connects the stomach and throat.
Indigestion occurs for a variety of reasons. Obesity or changes in body mass index, increased calcium intake – which increases acidity – medical conditions and some medication, can all trigger indigestion.
Meadowsweet is a herb sometimes known as the “meat eater’s remedy,” helping relieve acidity and poor digestion.
The therapeutic value of meadowsweet is much like over-the-counter antacids, but without adverse side effects such as low iron levels and a lowered immune system.
Meadowsweet contains tannins, brownish compounds found in plants which historically have been used to tan and dye leather. Tannins function like astringents and draw tissues together in the digestive tract. This makes meadowsweet perfect for healing the digestive tract and treating indigestion.
Many people seek treatment for varicose veins due to their appearance, but they are often painful, especially when standing or walking, and can itch – try to avoid scratching them as it may cause ulcers.
The herb Butcher’s Broom derives its peculiar name from medieval times when the leaves were used to preserve butcher’s meat from being eaten by mice and the stalks were tied together to make brooms.
Today, it is used to improve circulation and to reduce the discomfort of fluid retention. The flavonoids in Butcher's Broom help tighten varicose veins and strengthen the capillary walls and are particularly suitable for people who are on their feet all day.
Helen Elscot . . . “Herbal medicine is experiencing a revival at a general and scientific level.”